Founding Anthropologist

Sarah Keller, founder of the university’s anthropology program and one of Eastern’s longest serving faculty members, died on Dec. 24.


As a child growing up in Boston, Sarah Keller told Eastern magazine in a 2017 interview, she caught the anthropology bug from Digging in Yucatan by Ann Axtell Morris, an account of excavations of Mayan temples.

Sarah Keller
Sarah Keller

After earning a doctorate from nearby Harvard University in 1966, Keller traveled across the nation to join the faculty of what was then Eastern Washington State College. She began Eastern’s anthropology program shortly thereafter, and remained at EWU until her retirement in 2017.

Over the course of her 51-year career, Keller’s teaching and research positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students. She also found time to work with law enforcement agencies and local tribes to identify the bones of potential crime victims. For these and other contributions, in 2009 Keller received EWU’s Trustees’ Medal, the university’s highest form of recognition for faculty achievement.

“I do this because I love it,” she told this magazine at the time. “You’re a lucky person if you get up every morning and you want to go to work.”

Keller was 82 years old. To contribute to a scholarship in her honor, visit:



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